PARIS (AFP) ― International rescue teams were rushing to Japan on Sunday after a 8.8-magnitude earthquake and tsunami left more than 2,000 feared dead, at least 10,000 missing and seriously damaged a nuclear power plant.
The world has rallied behind Japan, where tsunami waves up to 10 meters high rolled across the low-lying northeast on Friday, washing away everything in their path.
U.S. aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan arrived off the coast of Japan early Sunday to provide logistical support for Japanese forces.
Japan has asked it to refuel its helicopters and help transport its troops to affected areas, the US Pacific Fleet said on its Facebook page.
A 144-member rescue team of the U.S. Agency for International Development was also due at Misawa, northern Japan, later Sunday, to join inland operations, the Japanese foreign ministry said.
They included 12 dogs trained to detect victims trapped under rubble and about 150 tons of rescue equipment, USAID said.
With more than 1,000 people feared dead and authorities scrambling to bring reactors under control at two nuclear plants, Japanese officials have asked other nations to provide sniffer dogs to help search for trapped survivors.
Australia, South Korea and Singapore on Saturday all pledged to send dogs and search and rescue teams, as they also offered their condolences to Tokyo.
On Sunday, Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd said they had offered self-contained field hospitals and disaster victim identification teams to help in the process of both rescuing survivors and recovering bodies.
They had also offered the expertise of nuclear specialists to help address the threat from the damaged power station, he added.
And two experts from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission were headed for Japan, the commission announced Saturday.
Japan reported that an estimated 200,000 people had been evacuated so far from the areas around the Fukushima No.1 and No. 2 nuclear plants, the U.N. atomic watchdog said.
After an explosion at the plant’s No. 1 reactor Saturday afternoon despite efforts to control high temperatures and growing inside pressure, the operator said Sunday another reactor was at risk.
In a message to the Japanese prime minister the Dalai Lama, who has a huge following among Japanese Buddhists, expressed his “sadness” at the catastrophe and praised Japan’s high level of disaster preparedness for saving lives.
And Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II sent her “heartfelt sympathy” in a message to Japan’s Emperor Akihito.
After the European Union vowed to get aid to Japan Friday, many member states were quick to make their contribution.
From Britain, a 59-strong search and rescue team was headed for Japan Sunday, with two rescue dogs, a medical support unit ― and 11 tons of specialist rescue equipment including heavy lifting and cutting gear.
France said it was sending two civil security teams to help with rescue efforts.
The Japanese Red Cross on Saturday sent 62 emergency teams to rescue victims of the earthquake, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said from its Geneva headquarters.
Around 400 doctors, nurses and other experts had been deployed to help victims of the disaster using mobile clinics, the federation added.
China’s Red Cross also pledged 1 million yuan ($150,000) to its Japanese counterpart, state media reported.
The Afghan province of Kandahar announced $50,000 in aid.
And a 66-strong Japanese team which has spent more than two weeks searching the rubble left by last month’s 6.3-magnitude quake in Christchurch in New Zealand was due back home to confront the unfolding tragedy.
The United Nations said Japan had also accepted help from Germany, Mexico, New Zealand, Singapore and South Korea.
Rescue teams from another 39 countries were on standby, it added.
A team from the United Nations Disaster and Assessment body was on the way.